City economic development chief Brodie to retire
M.J. 'Jay' Brodie to leave helm of Baltimore Development Corp. once a replacement is hired
M.J. "Jay" Brodie is retiring after serving as president of the Baltimore Development Corp. for 16 years. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / The Baltimore Sun / February 23, 2012)
The Baltimore native and former city housing commissioner is credited with overseeing initiatives to create thousands of jobs and to attract and keep hundreds of businesses in the city during his 16 years as president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public economic development arm.
Brodie, viewed as highly influential in city development, also has drawn criticism from residents and business owners who have complained about being pushed out by urban renewal and about the secrecy under which they say his agency has operated.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake praised Brodie, 75, on Thursday for his "countless" contributions to the city. The mayor also announced plans to launch a professional search for a replacement.
Brodie said he would stay on as BDC president until a replacement is hired. After that, he said, he would become an adviser to the Mayor's Office of Economic and Neighborhood Development if an employment contract is approved.
"Jay has been a true champion for Baltimore's businesses — both large and small — and has left a permanent, positive legacy as a major contributor to our city's ongoing renaissance," Rawlings-Blake, who has worked with Brodie since her days on the City Council, said in a statement. "Jay pursued his work with the utmost integrity and worked hard every day to make Baltimore a great place to live and work."
In an interview, Brodie, who started at the BDC in 1996 under then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, called his job at the agency the most rewarding of his life.
His work on city development efforts stretches back decades. He led the city's housing department, first as deputy commissioner and then as commissioner, from 1969 to 1984, and worked on efforts to reinvent the Inner Harbor.
During Brodie's tenure as president, the BDC's programs retained or attracted 58,725 jobs in 993 businesses, bringing in a capital investment of $3.2 billion, city officials said.
The agency under his leadership worked with private developers and investors on dozens of projects, including the opening of 20 neighborhood grocery stores and the redevelopment of Mondawmin Mall, Clipper Mill and the Belvedere Square market. He also helped bring the national Main Streets program to Baltimore and expanded Baltimore's Emerging Technology Center program.
Over the years, the BDC's projects and strategies have also sparked opposition and lawsuits. Critics complained that too many decisions were made behind closed doors, leading to a lawsuit that eventually prompted the BDC to open its board meetings. Backed by the city, the agency has helped push through big property tax breaks for developers and used eminent domain to acquire property from residents and business owners.
Brodie said he believed Baltimore would likely always require some tax incentives to remain competitive, in part because developers have to pay higher costs for property taxes and construction of parking garages.
Brodie said he was proud of helping neighborhood merchants thrive through the Main Streets programs — and, on the other end of the size spectrum, of attracting Morgan Stanley and its hundreds of jobs to Harbor East.
He also said had strived to make the BDC more open and responsive to businesses.
"Baltimore is a challenging place to do big projects," Brodie said. "People are reticent. People were reticent about Charles Center. People were reticent about the Inner Harbor. They were reticent about Harbor East."
Despite this hesitancy, he said, "we've accomplished as much or more than I would have guessed if you had asked me way back when."
Why was he retiring? "As my wife would have said, 'You're not 20 anymore,'" he said.
Brodie and his wife, Georgene "Genie" Brodie, who died in 2002, developed a passion for ice skating — an activity he still enjoys and plans to do more of once he retires. He said he also looks forward to spending more time with his four grandchildren.
He is also known for a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the city. During days spent traveling from meeting to meeting, Brodie usually toted an armful of newspapers, documents and files.